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Eureka: Working for a "Black" company
by Jay Gutman
2016-12-26 11:23:40
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economyblak01_400Technically, when you have a job, you should have a large degree of autonomy and be able to make your own decisions. “Black” companies are companies where you have absolutely no autonomy, and where your supervisor decides everything from what you wear to whether you look good to precisely how you should get the work done. Having worked for such companies, let me describe how they function.

If you’re interviewing for a job, and are asked if you have any questions, the first question you should ask is “how much autonomy will I have when carrying tasks out.” If they laugh at that question, dodge the bullet and don’t accept the job offer. Same thing if you’re a parent, make sure your children have a large degree of autonomy at work, and that other people aren’t deciding every task for them.

So here’s what it’s like working for a “black” company:

1-      You are not informed of the long-term vision

When I was teaching at a “black” company, I was assigned a supervisor inside the classroom who kept yelling at me because I constantly seemed to get the teaching wrong. Yet when I told my supervisor that I wanted to sit down with her and discuss the long-term vision for what she wants the students to learn, the supervisor shrugged and avoided that meeting. Same thing when I was at a sales company, I literally sat right next to my supervisor, yet not once did we discuss the long-term strategy for sales, nor did they tell me what it was exactly that they sold.

2-      Your supervisor decides everything you do, and you always seem to be doing it wrong

Technically you decide a fixed set of rules and follow those rules all along. But at “Black” companies, the supervisor decides everything, changes his or her mind about everything, and no rule seems to be set. One day they want the document printed out, the next day they want electronic files and ask you why you would ever print a document out.

3-      The word “mistake” is their favorite word

We all do mistakes. A company that tolerates mistakes is a good company, a company that rages when small mistakes are done is a “Black” company.

4-      Your wife, parents or family disagree that you should have any autonomy at work

Sorry to say this, but you have the right to a large degree of autonomy anywhere you go, including work, where you spend about 40 hours a week.

5-      Unrealistic deadlines

The main thing about “Black” companies is they have no idea what a deadline even means. I was once asked to translate 200 pages in one day, about 1000 pages and they said translate those by that afternoon (meaning I had a couple of hours to translate 1000 pages) or give each client a separate invoice (rather than using the same format for each client).

6-      Your supervisors take everything for granted.

I speak 9 languages, few other people on earth do as well. “Black” companies took that skill for granted. I solve math problems, and “Black” universities took that for granted. Every project I successfully completed at “Black” companies was taken for granted and all they had was criticism of what went wrong in those projects (without ever mentioning what went right).

In conclusion:

You should be allowed a large degree of autonomy whether for decision making or for work habits, and you know what’s best when dealing with students or clients. If someone else is taking those decisions for you, look for a company where you have a large degree of autonomy.


Disclaimer: A "Black company" has nothing to do with ethnicity and is found in most countries and across all ethnicities, from sweatshops to sales companies to schools in Asia, Europe, The Americas, Africa and the Middle East and has nothing to do with ethnicity. They are companies that often reduce workers' autonomy to a minimum, which sometimes lead workers to feel that they are owned and in some cases leads workers to suffer from severe psychological or physical sequels for having no autonomy at work. Needless to say, they are called "Black companies" in sociology and have nothing to do with ethnicity.

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Emanuel Paparella2016-12-26 15:09:14
The necessary other side of the coin:

A disclaimer at the end of this column was perhaps wise to prevent misunderstandings and ad hominem charges, but rather superfluous too.

Most readers, even those of average intelligence, will grasp that in this context the connotation “black” is a mere sociological term with no racial or ethnic implications. The pictures themselves are a disclaimer.

What the reader may have considerable more difficulty understanding, however, is why a capitalistic system, built on the premise that profits and the accumulation of wealth and capital and prosperity for all, are the most important feature of a commercial entrepreneurial enterprise, ends up treating the vast majority of autonomous people who work for it, people with the dignity of human beings, as cogs in a gigantic producing-consuming machine; i.e., as means to an end, ultimately reducing them too to producing and consuming zombies.

To begin to understand that kind of bizarre phenomenon which has philosophical more than sociological implications, a mere sociological reductionist positivist approach may, alas, prove sorely insufficient; one needs to consider the other side of the coin. A reading of Plato (the Republic), Kant (The Critique of Practical Reason), and Marx (Das Kapital) may prove quite helpful and insightful in that respect. To repeat: one side of the coin, while appearing detailed and exhaustive of the argument at hand, and while having some jump on their feet with an "I have found it," will in reality prove somewhat insufficient for a holistic humanistic vision of the nature of man.

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